Tennessee’s Attorney General Requests Georgia O’Keeffe Collection be Removed from Fisk University

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A sudden and unexpected shift in the ongoing struggle between Fisk University and its Stieglitz Collection of more than 100 paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. Although the school had managed to fend off the artist’s foundation when it announced that it was considering selling the collection to help pay its bills and lessen the costs associated with caring for the pieces, a judge stopped them in late-August from trying to strike up a deal with another museum wherein they’d sell a 50% stake in the paintings. Originally, the judge had said she was open to the possibility of a revised deal, as long as the collection, which had been donated by the artist herself, kept the art within the state. Now Tennessee’s Attorney General has asked a judge for permission to remove the collection from Fisk, move it to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, and be in control of its care and conservation, at least until Fisk is financially stable enough to safely take care of it again. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the university is having none of the proposal, saying that they might find it acceptable to share the O’Keeffes with the state on a 50/50 basis, like in their failed plans with that fellow museum, but the current plan would do nothing other than hurt Fisk (in the state’s method, the school gets nothing other than piece of mind that the art is safe — the school’s method means they keep trying to sell it for many millions so they can pay off their debts). Fisk has vowed to fight and last night, students held a vigil for the collection. This story has suddenly turned into last year’s battle at Brandeis University over the temporary closing of the Rose Art Museum, which you might recall resulted in a bevy of turmoil, including the resignation of the school’s president. We’ll continue to report on this battle as it unfolds.